Flying the friendly skies…

This past weekend, we traveled from Dublin to Amarillo, Texas to spend December with friends and family in the US.  The journey is definitely a long one…3 flights, 4 airports, and about 20 hours of total transit time.  Add three kids to the mix, and it makes for a volatile combination.

Mercifully, our trip was virtually trouble-free.  Thanks to Patrick being an “infant in arms”, we got to sit in the bulkhead row (read: lots of space) for the transatlantic flight.  On the Newark to Houston flight, we got to fly in a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  It was a really nice plane.  On both of those flights, we had in-flight entertainment, and I think Isaac watched “Cars” about 4 times.  (But hey – he was quiet!)

On our final flight, we were on a small commuter jet to Amarillo.  It is one of those tiny planes, and it felt even tinier after flying on the Dreamliner.  When we boarded the plane, Isaac asked, “Where is my TV?” Not in a whiny voice, but just curious why this plane didn’t have in-flight entertainment.  I explained that this plane did not have a TV, because it was so small.  He was quiet for a few minutes, and then asked where his blanket and pillow were.  Again, I explained that our flight was shorter, so we really didn’t need blankets and pillows.  Essentially, Isaac thought that ALL planes have TVs, pillows and blankets provided.  (Insert jaded expat kid joke here!)  I didn’t think much of his questions, as we were completely exhausted.

Meanwhile, the flight attendant began the standard safety demonstration when Isaac suddenly asked, in that loud little-kid voice, “What is she DOING?”

Embarrassing!  (Also – why is it that a preschooler’s voice will carry without any microphone needed?!)

He was completely baffled by the in-person safety demonstration.  On the previous flights, the demonstration was done by video.  I tried to explain what the flight attendant was doing, and Isaac was so confused…and the flight attendant was a bit miffed.  Oh well.

Adventures in traveling with children!

October in Ireland

*Warning – plenty of pictures in this post*

Whoa!  Where did the time go?!  October seemed to fly by.  It was a busy month here, but we managed to take in some beautiful fall weather.  Here are some pictures from our latest adventures:

I tried to take pictures of Patrick in his baptism gown.  His baptism gown was handmade in Irish linen by a lady here in Dublin.  I think it will make a great memento of our time here, and I wanted to get some more photos of him and the gown, to capture the little details.  The photo shoot was a mixed success.  Here are a few of the good shots.

Patrick with the cross from Nana and Pops
Such a cutie

Pops’ 60th birthday was on October 11.  While we couldn’t be in Texas to celebrate with him, we coordinated with Janell and Kathleen to make a big birthday card!  We decided to take our pictures in downtown Dublin.  We went down to the River Liffey, but the glare was quite bad off of the water.

They have a case of the giggles
Trinity College bell tower in the background
Brad and the kids on the green at Trinity College

Clearly Liesl had the most fun that day!  After taking a few pictures, we went to St. Stephen’s Green (where else?!) for some playground time, which is where I snapped this shot of Patrick.  He is cozy warm in his stroller muff.  For our friends in Texas, a stroller muff is basically a sleeping bag attached to the stroller that keeps kids warm in the winter cold.

Patrick at the park

Throughout month, the kids fought ad nauseum about the train.  Who got which engine, how many pieces, complaining when we asked they to clean up, etc etc etc…  So Brad and I took the train away.  We were tired of hearing them bicker about it.  Instead of playing with other toys, they make a train out of blocks!  Will the fascination with trains ever end?

Block “train”

We went to Malahide Castle and Gardens on their grand re-opening weekend.  Malahide Castle is a grand manor home and surrounding gardens and fields.  The weather was pitch-perfect, they have a great Avoca cafe, and fabulous playground and walking trails.  We had never been to Malahide, and it was a great day to check out the sights.  Unfortunately, the castle was closed, but the gardens and cafe were still open.  It was one of those days where I pinch myself that we live here.

Isaac and Liesl at the Castle playground
In the wooded grounds of Malahide Castle
Such a cute pair!
Liesl planning our next walk
Isaac and the fall foliage
Taking a path in the woods

We went on bike rides through Phoenix Park.

Fall walk in Phoenix Park

One evening, we walked by the Papal Cross.  The Papal Cross was placed in Phoenix Park to commemorate the mass given by Blessed Pope John Paul II in September 1979.  More than 1.25 million people attended.

Papal Cross in the evening sun
Papal Cross at sunset

Last weekend, Brad’s aunt Linda, and Nana came into town for a visit.  The beautiful weather disappeared, and was replaced with the cold, blustery, rainy Dublin fall weather.  We tried not to let the weather keep us from enjoying the sights.  We went back to Malahide Castle.  The weather wasn’t great, but at least the castle was open.

Malahide Castle
Picture time with Nana and Aunt Linda
The Abbey at Malahide Castle
At the castle door

We took a day trip to Kilkenny.  The two main sights in Kilkenny are Kilkenny Castle, and St. Canice’s cathedral.

Linda and the kids at Kilkenny Castle

After touring the castle, and then stopping for lunch, we walked over to the cathedral.  It wasn’t open yet, so we toured the surrounding graveyard.  (Old churches over here basically sit surrounded by the graves of past parishioners.)

Liesl at St. Canice’s Cathedral, love the Celtic cross in the background

One of the more interesting sights:


Just hanging out at a church originally built in the 6th century, NBD.

At the doors of St. Canice’s Cathedral
Nana and Patrick inside St. Canice’s

This was the public toilet at St. Canice’s.

The oldest toilet we have seen so far (at St. Canice’s). Isaac’s comment: “Brrr! This wood toilet seat is COLD!”

Of course, no October picture album would be complete without pictures from Halloween.  Being parent-of-the-year, I waited until Oct. 31st to buy our pumpkins.  That’s a mistake I won’t make again.  I forgot that this is Ireland, not Texas.  I could not find ONE pumpkin anywhere.  The stores had already sold out.  I was resourceful, and got the kids butternut squashes instead.  We put our pumpkin faces on them, and the kids had a great time.  Bonus – we can actually eat these, as opposed to regular pumpkins which really aren’t meant to be eaten.  I also learned something else – pie pumpkins here are called “culinary pumpkins”.  Sounds so much more sophisticated! (Sadly, the stores were sold out of culinary pumpkins too.)

Happy Halloween!

Liesl was a pumpkin princess and Isaac was Thomas the Tank Engine (surprise!) for Halloween.  Patrick helped Nana and Linda hand out candy while we trick-or-treated.  Isaac’s costume was definitely a hit.  Everyone wanted to know where we had bought it.  (Nana brought it from the US.)

Ready for trick-or-treating!
Trick-or-treating with friends at Jason & Sarah’s house

Last but not least – Patrick is scooting around on the carpet, and getting up on all fours.  He has two tiny teeth, but won’t open his mouth long enough for me to get a picture!  He will be on the move before we know it!

Don’t forget about me! I’m *almost* crawling!

House Calls

This is a part of an occasional series on the healthcare system in Ireland.  I know that healthcare is getting a lot of press during the presidential election in the US.  Here in Ireland, the system is a hybrid public-private system.  There is a basic, public system that is available to all individuals living in Ireland.  It is paid for via the income tax.  There is also the option to buy health insurance, either through your employer, or on the open market.

We learned a new and interesting fact about Ireland recently:  the doctor house-call is alive and well!  We took the kids downtown last Saturday morning to take some pictures.  It was a bright and sunny day in Ireland, and we took advantage of the beautiful weather!  After a morning of sightseeing at The Ha’Penny Bridge, Trinity College, Molly Malone statue, and St. Stephen’s Green, we took the train back to our house.  On the train ride, Brad noticed a spot on Isaac’s neck that had swollen up.  It looked like a ping-pong ball was right below his earlobe.  This spot must have come up in just a few hours, because we did not notice it before then.

When we got home, I called our GP’s (general practitioner) on-call number.  I expected that I would talk to a nurse, and determine whether we should wait until Monday, or take Isaac over to the Children’s Hospital.  There are no “minor emergency clinics” in Ireland.  They just don’t exist.  However, we are an easy driving distance from the one of Ireland’s Children’s Hospitals, which is great.

On the phone, the nurse asked me some questions, and then asked, “Do you want the doctor to meet you to look at your son?”

My reply: “Meet us where?”

I’m sure the nurse thought I was a complete idiot – as she said, “at your home”.  This sounded great to me!  The nurse told me that the doctor on call would arrive at our house in about two hours.  And sure enough, two hours later, he came.  He was a young, friendly doctor, who arrived with the quintessential leather “doctor bag”.    He looked at the spot on Isaac’s neck, which was now a bit red, and tender to the touch.  He checked out his ears/nose/mouth, etc, and determined that Isaac had an infected lymph node.  He wrote a prescription for an anti-biotic, and we were done.  The whole visit took about 30 minutes.

(Of course, during that time, Liesl walked around in the living room proclaiming “Isaac has a big bump on his neck!” over and over again.)

We were charged €70 for the visit, a portion of which is tax-deductible, and another portion is reimbursed by our insurance.  When you factor in the insurance and tax deduction, it is about the equivalent of a co-pay in the US.  It was completely worth it for me to pay the €70, just to avoid a germy hospital waiting room, where our otherwise healthy son might have picked up the latest bug.  That, and being able to wait at the house rather than entertaining a kid in the waiting room.

And about a day later, Isaac’s lymph node bump was completely gone.

We are still on the learning curve for the healthcare system here, but it was really nice to be able to get a house call from a doctor at 5:00 on a Saturday afternoon.